Science Says This Supermarket Supplement May Help Prevent Skin Cancer

Lisa Patulny

Remember when our national sun protection motto was just Slip, Slop, Slap? The slogan we memorised as kids was then updated in 2007 to include Seek and Slide, highlighting the importance of finding shade and wearing sunglasses to keep our skin safe. Well, it could be time for Sid the Seagull to add another directive—Supplement—because researchers have discovered that nicotinamide (a form of vitamin B3) may help to reduce the incidence of common skin cancers.

In a recent clinical trial of 386 Australians, participants who took 500mg of nicotinamide twice daily showed a 23% lower risk of developing non-melanoma skin cancers (particularly basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas) than those who took placebo pills. Importantly, this specific study focused on people prone to common skin cancers and all participants had had two or more such skin cancers in the previous five years. Even so, the skin-protecting powers of nicotinamide don’t end there; it’s also been shown to enhance DNA repair—meaning anyone could potentially benefit from it.

This is all great news, but what the heck is nicotinamide? And where do we find it? It’s naturally found in foods including various meats, fish, nuts, and even Vegemite, but it might be more practical to consider a supplement: “It would take over 130 serves of Vegemite every single day to achieve the protective skin immunity and sun damage repair effects of the dose of nicotinamide used in the recent research,” says Dr. Michael Freeman, Principal Dermatologist of The Skin Centre Suite on the Gold Coast. 

When shopping for supplements Freeman says it’s crucial to read labels. “It’s important to ensure you take nicotinamide and not niacin—another form of Vitamin B3—which may cause unpleasant side effects including flushing. These side effects are not seen with nicotinamide at a dose of 500mg twice a day, which is what was used in recent research.” Chat with your doctor or pharmacist for more info on whether this kind of supplement could be beneficial for you.

Shop a few of our favourite sunscreens below.

Have you ever taken a nicotinamide supplement before? Sound off in the comments below.


Opening image: Gooseberry Intimates 

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